East German Deprivation of Citizenship

Sometimes, the story behind a document turns out to be most unusual and surprising. This story is such an example. The paper is not a passport but a citizenship document from East Germany (GDR). To be more precise, a certificate of deprivation of East German citizenship, which is pretty rare to find!

I asked the eBay-seller if he has more information about this document, and to my surprise, it was his document. Here his amazing story… East German Deprivation of Citizenship

I was born around 23 o’clock on 28.2.1953 and am said to have been “very calm” at birth – which was no feat for me because I had undoubtedly already slept well when I had to get out of mom’s stomach. In any case, birth probably didn’t interest me much, and I continued to sleep when I was outside. Since I was born in the middle of the night with electric light, I could only see the “light of the world” on the morning of March 1st. Some days later, Generalissimus Stalin died. (one comes, the other goes…) And when I was a tender 20 years old, I tried to get into West Germany via Hungary and Austria, which failed, and I had to join “Schwarze Pumpe” prison labor camp for two years. After my release, it took only six weeks before my application for expatriation was approved, and I was allowed to go to West Germany. East German Deprivation of Citizenship

East German Deprivation of Citizenship
Certificate number 12980 which could indicate the numbers of citizens expelled from GDR.

During my time in prison, I had written about 20 applications for expatriation, refused to work and also wrote applications for other prisoners. I was released normally, so I was not ransomed. I was then assigned a job and a final application for expatriation was accepted, which was approved 6 weeks later. An administrative fee of 30 marks had to be paid, but I would also have paid 500 marks for it. Since the GDR was a new member of the UNO at that time, they wanted (had to) show increased humanity and let hundreds of “political” people into the West – most of them were ransomed by the FRG.

I was arrested at the Hungarian-Austrian border near Sopron when I discovered that I could not cross there without tools. The plan was to show the GDR that I didn’t want to live in this system any longer and to move to the FRG. With my last GDR money I bought the ticket from Berlin via Hanover to Frankfurt/Main 1st class for 115 GDR-Mark and went on August 11th, 1975 with an “Identity Certificate” and the certificate of expatriation to Hanover. In Marienborn a young woman from the GDR customs came into the compartment and checked my papers. She looked at me a little hateful and asked “Do you think it is right to betray our German Democratic Republic? Fearing that she could get me off the train if she made a false (anti-state) statement, I said somewhat embarrassed: “Well, what should I do?! (stupid answer!) I couldn’t think of anything better. First I lived in Trier, then half a year in Cologne and from 1976 in Berlin-West. Until January 1977 I could still go to Berlin-East with a West German identity card, then the border authorities switched to computers and did not let anyone into the GDR who had left it in the last 5 years.

Only in December 1989 at Christmas, I visited my relatives again, after the Stasi was no longer active. Because I was previously on an East German wanted list for aiding and abetting an escape. In January 1990 I started to collect all food, cosmetics and other articles of daily use for a GDR museum because I knew that with the introduction of the DM all GDR products would disappear from real life. From 1991 to 2001 I bought GDR articles at East German flea markets for about 60.000 DM, which mostly went to the Berlin GDR Museum. In 1993 I was a co-founder of the documentation center for GDR everyday culture in Eisenhüttenstadt, where my collection was housed in 6 garages. I participated in several exhibitions and sold some UNIKAT to museums in Bonn, Leipzig, and Berlin. Since 2010 I mainly sell paper objects and leftovers of food, double GDR postcards, and Toys on eBay.

Photos from Juergen’s Stasi file at the Austrian/Hungarian border where he tried to escape in 1973. (Permission granted by Juergen)

The term expatriation stands for the deprivation or withdrawal of citizenship. Citizens who lived or stayed outside the GDR could be deprived of their citizenship “for gross violation of their civic duties” (Citizenship Act). A prominent example is songwriter Wolf Biermann.

After a performance in Cologne, he was deprived of his GDR citizenship, among other things because of his “hostile behavior towards the German Democratic Republic”. His expatriation met with indignation both inside and outside the GDR and triggered a lasting crisis in the relationship between many intellectuals in the GDR and the SED leadership. Ultimately, the GDR government discredited itself with the means of expatriation, especially since it was resorting to a practice first introduced by the National Socialists (laws of 14 July 1933 on the revocation of naturalization and the revocation of citizenship).

Another prominent citizen was actor Armin Mueller-Stahl who was a star in the East and became famous in the West as well. East German Deprivation of Citizenship

Between building the wall and fall of the wall around 130 East German writers left the country and their citizenship was revoked. But as we can learn from the story of Hans-Juergen Hartwig many citizens more had the same fate just because they wanted to live a life in freedom.

 

An East German Passport – Wolf Biermann – Singer-Songwriter-Dissident

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